House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.

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Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

May 17th, 2000 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Janusz Steinhoff, the Minister of Economy of the Republic of Poland.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Yesterday the hon. member for Wild Rose raised a point of privilege about information which he claims was deliberately withheld from his staff. At that time he mentioned specifically the Department of the Solicitor General.

I had hoped that the solicitor general would be here. When the solicitor general comes to the House we will take up this point of privilege. The only reason we are not going directly to it is because the minister is not here at the moment.

While we are waiting for the minister to come to the House I will hear a point of order from the hon. House leader for the Bloc Quebecois.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I rise in this House to raise a point of order. I am deeply distressed by the events in this House yesterday.

At the start of this parliament, an agreement was reached among the parliamentary leaders, which we passed on to you, to the effect that the order of oral questions is always prepared in advance to ensure the House functions better.

There was also an underlying principle, which was that a political party wasting the time of the House, using up time in question period for other purposes, would be penalized in the number of questions available to it.

There have been quite a few Oral Question Periods in which the Bloc Quebecois—each time it is the Bloc—has lost its seventh question. Today we lost our sixth question because, on the other side of the House—and they have frankly admitted it—they were happy to take fewer questions because the minister, who was in an awkward situation, had fewer answers to give.

The Liberals have two questions in Oral Question Period. I do not understand why, under a principle of fairness, under the agreements reached among the parliamentary leader, which must still be in effect—if they are no longer in effect, I would like to be informed, and we will get that straightened out quickly—under what principle did the Bloc Quebecois today lose not only its seventh question but its sixth as well, whereas the Liberals had all theirs, but they wasted the time of the House by standing up, heckling, applauding and fooling around, while we were discussing a matter of great importance?

Mr. Speaker, I call on you and ask the following: What sort of rules will it take for us to also be entitled to the number of questions set out in the original agreement? It always comes just before the Bloc Quebecois' question and it is beginning to get under our skin in a big way, to put it frankly.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am the first to admit that today there may have been less discipline than usual in the House. I readily recognize that fact.

If some of my colleagues have slowed down the proceedings, I apologize for that. However, let me say that this is certainly not happening only on one side of the House. We know that some questions are provocative and can sometimes trigger answers that are also provocative.

I recognize that those who engage in provocation are not necessarily those who suffer the consequences. Sometimes, there are third parties involved, particularly in a House with five political formations. I also recognize that, because it is true.

I would add that, based on our usual way of doing things, three questions are asked every day by government members. Today, the hon. member for Guelph—Wellington was not recognized. In other words, the same thing also happened on our side of the House.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

We lost two.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am in the process of providing an explanation and apologizing. I was polite to the hon. member and I hope his colleagues will show the same courtesy.

As I just indicated, the hon. member for Guelph—Wellington wanted to ask a question on the university in her riding, one of the most important institutions in the country, particularly in the agricultural sector. She was not able to put her question because—and I also recognize that—of the disturbance in the House today.

I undertake to raise with my colleagues the fact that we must do our part to ensure that the allotted number of questions can be asked, or better yet supplementaries. I think that questions and answers in the House are a fundamental principle of democracies—they make the government accountable to the public. I will raise this issue.

Naturally, I urge the others to do the same, obviously so that we can work together toward a co-operative atmosphere, notwithstanding our disagreements as to substance, because there will be such disagreements, we admit. That is only fair and it is good for democracy. I undertake to do my part as well.

Once again, I wish to point out that, notwithstanding the enthusiasm of some people sometimes, a number of parliamentarians on this side also felt hard done by today. Considering that there are in fact more so-called eligible members on our side of the House than in any party on the other side, we too have parliamentarians who are disappointed at not being able to ask their questions.

I admit that the questions are different in nature. I admit that, by the very nature of things, they are perhaps less pointy, less partisan. But this does not mean that members on this side with questions to ask feel that their concerns are not important. They are important regionally, in terms of their riding, or when it comes to whether or not to support the government. Questions are just as important on this side of the House.

I too have spent many years on the other side. I know about the frustration of getting ready to make the government accountable and being unable to speak at the appointed time after having done all the groundwork for this exercise which is so fundamental to democracy.

That is why I have raised this point today and it is one in which I believe deeply. I think that the Bloc Quebecois House leader will agree that I am being sincere because I too believe in this fundamental principle of democracy.

I will close by repeating the undertaking being given by our side of the House—I am sure the whip will agree with me—to do our best. We must all work on this, both sides of the House, all five sides—if the House can be said to have five sides—all five parties, with all the challenges that involves.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I address myself directly to the hon. member to let him know that I too feel frustrated in this House.

Today I have stood up at least a dozen times to call for order, so that we could hear ourselves in this House, and hear the questions as well as the answers.

Every five or six weeks we have a day like today. I wish that all days could be like Monday, when we had 47 questions and 47 answers in this House. That was a good day for Parliament. Tuesday, there were 42 of each.

I would like to be able to say that it is all on one side or the other, all one party or the other. However, the hon. members were here for Oral Question Period. The last time, I called upon you all to take a look at yourselves. Can one or the other side say that they are not to blame? If so, good for you, and thank you.

If not, we keep coming back every six weeks or so because we cannot get our questions in at the end of question period. Then we stand up, stalk out and some yell “partisan” and “taking up time”.

I suggest to you that unless you want me, as your Speaker, and I will happy to do it, every time someone raises his or her voice, that I stop them and tell them to leave, which I will do, but I do not want a question period like that. Do you?

The House leaders from the different parties are all ready to get in. Every six or seven weeks we have a day like this. It has not been a good day. Again, I come back and appeal to you that if you want a House that is just going to have me here, kicking people out on both sides, that can be done.

I appeal to you, as parliamentarians of Canada, to take your responsibilities too. If it is such a joke and so funny, go laugh in the lobbies. Do not take up our time here, we who want to do the work of our country, and surely do not attack your Speaker every six weeks because we, collectively, have a bad day. I do not think that is fair.

I have had my say.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify a number of things.

I know very well that today was frightful and trying for everyone, probably more so for the Speaker than for the others. I have done my part to try to stay calm as much as possible. But I, like others, have been known to heckle a bit in this House.

In the worst case scenario, let us be frank, we will understand each other—I do not want to attack you, Mr. Speaker—let us say that today half of the trouble came from this side and half from the other. This was not the case, but let us say we all caused about as much trouble. I just want to humbly submit to you that, each time we cause trouble about equally, the Liberal Party never loses questions, while we lose them regularly.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

We will conclude on that. I hope we will have a better day tomorrow.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to return to the point of privilege that was raised yesterday which I consider to be very important for the House. It dealt with a member of a department—and I think I am quoting the member—deliberately misleading a member of parliament's staff about information. I said at that time that I wanted to hear what the minister of that department had to say. He is here now and I will call on the solicitor general.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Cardigan
P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, due to the seriousness of the question of privilege, I would ask that you give me another 24 hours to get all the accurate information from all the people involved.

I also consider it a very serious situation, and I want to ensure that I have all the appropriate information before I respond to you, Mr. Speaker.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

It seems fair to me that we will have an answer by tomorrow. I will take the hon. minister's word that he will be here and he will give us a response, one way or the other, tomorrow. Does the hon. member wish to add something to this?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate that there will be a response. However, I would like to point out that it is one staff member in my office versus the entire group of people who were working in the commissioner's office. My staff member and I are prepared to sign an affidavit under oath, if so required.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

In this House your word is your oath, your affidavit. You have brought a problem to the House and we are going to look at it. The solicitor general is going to give us some information. We will let this sit at this point.